AI will boost productivity but it’s not all good news.

This week, The Economist has devoted a leader and a special report to AI’s impact in the workplace. AI’s ability to collect and process behavioural data, correlating it with business outcomes, makes it an invaluable tool for management. So, it is not just about clever recommendation engines. It is also about observing minute shifts in a call centre operator’s body language, for example, for evidence of a drop-off in performance. Workers can cope with being observed by (human) managers. They might have a different reaction if the observer is a machine. The AI industry would argue that the machine will not display bias. That depends on the training data. Subject to that, it is true. But the Hal effect (2001: A Space Odyssey) lingers in people’s minds. It is not, however, just about privacy and surveillance. There is also the impact on employment – again, both good and bad depending upon your point of view.

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